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The issues with April Fools coverage QT 11

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

April Fool’s issues are fake news and can damage student media’s credibility.

Yes, some find them acceptable, but their negatives far outweigh their positives. The ultimate question is are they worth the risks?

As a publication that strives for authentic, storytelling journalism for your community, breaking that convention for a satirical, or even mean, publication is counter to the principles good journalists should strive for. When you break the conventions and principles for which you are known to produce satire, you may be opening yourself up to charges of libel, obscenity, or even disruption. Satire is incredibly hard to do consistently well and correctly, and it is best left to the professionals who have far more protection.

 

Guidelines: April Fools issues have little to no journalistic value and do not advance the brand of student media. As a result, students should not publish an April Fool’s issue.

Question: Are April Fool’s issues and satire worth the risk? What is the journalistic value of publishing April Fools materials?

Key points/action: If your goal is to publish factual stories with impact and significance, then publishing April Fools material and other fake news may not be your priority. To publish information you know is false might lead to other legal and ethical issues, but if your media are designated public forums, that would be your choice and your responsibility.

Students publishing information they know is not true would be well advised to have a good grasp of legal and ethical journalistic standards.

Professionals have mastered the art of satire and comedy as a form of news reporting, but does that mean we should be trying to teach it in high school? Publications like The Onion have shown us satire can tell stories at the same time that they entertain, but can we effectively teach students to master the same skill

Stance: There are no quick and easy absolutes. Students need to balance their free expression rights with their mission and social responsibility to truth, accuracy and verified reporting. School publications put themselves at great risk when they publish April Fool’s issues and/or satire.

Reasoning/suggestions: Publishing something knowingly false raises significant legal issues of libel and malice and the newly concerning fake news plague. Decisions to choose a path that brings your student media into conflict with serious legal and ethical issues would have to fulfill essential media missions and goals.

Professional publications engaging in satire do so with a clear brand. Most of the public clearly recognizes the convention of the medium, and that gives it much more protection. Your student publication does not have the same brand.

As a publication that strives for authentic, storytelling journalism from your community, breaking that convention for a satirical publication is counter to the principles good journalists should strive for. When you break the conventions and principles for which you are known to produce satire, you may open yourselves to charges of libel, obscenity or even disruption. Satire is incredibly hard to do consistently well and correctly, and it is best left to the professionals who have far more protection.
Resources:

April Fools’ negatives outweigh positives, usually don’t fulfill techniques of satire

And now for something…untrue

Publishing satire

SPLC article: The joke is on these college editors — offensive April Fools humor can backfire badly

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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Think carefully before publishing April Fools’ Day content

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Megan Fromm, CJE
JEA Educational Initiatives Director

Let’s get straight to the punch line here: April Fools’ Day editions are a bad idea. Why? Well, the Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte provides solid evidence that many joke publications are never received quite as they are intended.

Instead, student editors and advisers often find themselves defending poorly worded jokes or misinterpreted parodies. When all you have to lose is your credibility as a media outlet, the stakes are too high to take this risk.

Still, many student media staffs love the idea of using satire and parody to break the mold, lighten things up or engage their audience on a different level. So, if your students insist on producing April Fools’ Day content, take some steps to demonstrate best ethical and legal practices along the way. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Is the content produced clearly labeled as satire/humor/parody? If a reasonable person could mistake the content for actual news, you’re asking for trouble.
  2. Stay away from comedy or jokes that use violence as a theme. In today’s school climate of zero tolerance, even an obvious joke that includes violence could be grounds to punish a student. As LoMonte writes, “there’s no such thing as a ‘hilarious’ rape joke.”
  3. Consider the message you’re sending readers by publishing April Fools’ Day content. Is your entire publication dedicated to the day, or just a (well-labeled) page? Have you shirked your journalistic responsibility while trying so hard to develop comedic content? Is this really what scholastic journalism is about?
  4. Does your staff thoroughly understand libel law and the implications of defamation?
  5. Finally, encourage student editors to answer simply and honestly whether an April Fools’ Day edition is the hill they want to fight (and potentially die) on. In other words, with all the other battles facing student journalists, do they want to spend their time and effort defending this particular decision?

April Fools’ Day editions are notoriously bad news. In fact, SPLC attorney Mike Hiestand commented in 2006 that there is “a reason why April 2 is often the busiest day of the year for us at the Student Press Law Center.”

So, proceed with caution. Because if you don’t, chances are the joke’s on you.

 

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April Fools’ negatives outweigh positives,
usually don’t fulfill techniques of satire

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Fabrication?

Non-credible information? Misleading direct quotes?

Seeking permission to quote from sources or asking them to approve information? SJW-2014

Putting advisers into the position of making content decisions normally left to students?

Is this the nightmare scholastic journalism advisers ultimately fear?

It could just be students preparing for an April Fools’ issue.

Although every major scholastic journalism organization warns students and advisers about the dangers of April Fools’ issues, students still want to do them. In some cases, advisers report such publications are their most popular form of coverage.

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Building a credible brand: Stick to the facts

Posted by on Mar 31, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

by Candace and John Bowen

April 1. April Fools.

JEA listservians have carried out a lively discussions on the merits and demerits of publishing April Fools editions. SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte even said to keep his center’s phone number and e-mail address handy if students published such an issue. hazelwoodcolor

Tough decision. Some commercial media publish such pieces. Why not scholastic media?

We think there are two core reasons for not publishing an April Fools issue:

• The information is known to be false. We spend the rest of the school year developing our credibility over controversy and defending students’ rights and obligation to print the truth. Then in one day we throw caution to the wind and go with information that is not only untrue but even could be taken to be misleading.
 We give others the right to know what is coming. Prior review. Prior approval. We do this, in some cases, with the best of intentions, so sources will not be caught unaware, and to make sure information is not too far out of line. We might even mix the untrue with the true, hoping our audiences can tell the difference. This scares us. We, including those of us carrying out JEA’s official position, argue and rant daily about the educational dangers of prior review. So in this case we want to say, here, check it out ahead of time? What will we say to those, now used to prior review, when they ask for it on something of substance?

Various journalism experts stress that ethical journalists do not add  what is not there.

That includes making up information that is not true, or real.

Think about what you want your brand, your reputation, to be.  Stick to credible journalism.

Modified and reposted from an original piece March 2, 2010.

 

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